Jaime Herrera Beutler addresses perceived police reform “craze”

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, introduced bipartisan legislation to continue funding to help support rural policing for 10 years yet included a biased spin on the matter.

The Community Oriented Policing Services on the Beat Grant Program Reauthorization and Parity Act expands funding to rural communities and increases wages for officers in low-income areas. It was previously allotted $386 million in 2021 and would be substantially increased to $1,047,119,000 in 2022. It has invested more than $14 billion in community policing since 1994.

It requires the U.S. Government Accountability Office to report midway through the program. Reports include a community’s demographic information like how many people live in the area and what the average pay and cost of living is.

The U.S. Department of Justice would oversee the advancement of the community-oriented policing services through information and grant resources. Grants from the legislation would be awarded to hire employees, develop and test policing strategies, and train community members and law enforcement.

Both Democrats and Republicans are sponsoring the legislation, yet Herrera Beutler approached the topic with a common partisan argument in a press release Wednesday.

“The ‘defund the police’ craze has contributed to demoralized police forces and fewer good cops on our streets; it’s time to reverse course,” Herrera Beutler wrote.

Defunding the police has been labeled as an unrealistic demand, and the argument against the movement is perpetuated by fear.

It should be noted, though, that “defunding” does not equate to repealing all sources of revenue to police departments. Conversely, money would be reallocated to other areas of city operations. State and local governments spend more than $100 billion on law enforcement each year, which doesn’t account for additional federal funding.

There is a misconception that police maintain order in communities, but studies show that investing more in education and infrastructure help establish peace in society. Funneling money into essential aspects of equitable living like education, housing and health care can mitigate harm that communities experience.

The discussion surrounding defunding the police is multifaceted and there is much more to delve into, especially regarding law enforcement’s disproportionate treatment of BIPOC people. The American Public Health Association even deemed police violence as a public health issue.

Instead of promoting fear mongering, government leaders should devote time to challenging the idea that communities require expensive police funding to maintain order.

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker

Lauren Ellenbecker is a politics reporter for The Columbian.

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